What’s a boy to do when he’s faced with his father’s death, a depressed mother, a little brother reverting to a whiny babyhood, and a “For Sale” sign in the front yard? In Kathryn Erskine’s newest novel (Seeing Red – on sale September 23rd), Red travels several routes to solve the quandary of how to avoid leaving the home he has always known. It’s his central issue until he gains a growing consciousness that he's not the only person dealing with life’s injustice.
Red has a hard time reconciling his antagonism to Darrell, the neighbor boy who seems headed straight toward delinquency, with his sympathy at the beatings the boy gets from his father. That’s even before he finds out about the long ago shady land deal that puts property lines of both of their families into question.
As he and Beau work together, he remembers his father’s words that Beau is “not retarded, just on a different track from the rest of us and sometimes way ahead.” Other people treat Beau differently, but Red sees the wisdom of his father’s statement as he slowly tunes in to Beau’s view of the world. When Red sees prejudice against Thomas and Miss Georgia and protests about rocks thrown through her window because she is black, Beau corrects him. Beau says people don’t come in black. They come in “dark brown, medium brown, light brown, lighter brown, darkish tan . . . ”
Unreliable advice threatens to undo what Red himself stands for as he toys with a Ouija board and edges into Darrell’s crowd. A few potholes in his journey help him figure out which voices he needs to trust:
• His own to his brother, scolding him for stealing cokes: You make a crime even worse when you try to cover it up.
• Miss Georgia’s: You’re not the one to run away from things.
• Miss Miller’s: The truth will set you free.
• Thomas’s: How much choice have we got?
• His dead father’s, still ringing in his mind: I hear you, Son.
• And perhaps the most important, also from his dad: I can count on you, Son.
I hope readers continue all the way to the end of the Author’s Note after finishing the book for a powerful message. Just in case and without spoiling a wonderful story, I’ll tell you what she says, “Finally, Red Porter is our future. He is modeled after you.”
Kathy Erskine, winner of the National Book Award for Mockingbird, has written another gripping novel in Seeing Red.